Accessibility of Mainstream Services for Aboriginal Victorians

Accessibility of Mainstream Services for Aboriginal Victorians

Accessibility of Mainstream Services for Aboriginal Victorians

Accessibility of Mainstream Services for Aboriginal Victorians 2013–14:28 May 2014 Level 24 35 Collins Street Melbourne Vic. 3000 Telephone 61 3 8601 7000 Facsimile 61 3 8601 7010 www.audit.vic.gov.au Victorian Auditor-General’s Report May 2014 2013–14:28 Accessibility of Mainstream Services for Aboriginal Victorians

Accessibility of Mainstream Services for Aboriginal Victorians
Accessibility of Mainstream Services for Aboriginal Victorians

V I C T O R I A Victorian Auditor-General Accessibility of Mainstream Services for Aboriginal Victorians Ordered to be printed VICTORIAN GOVERNMENT PRINTER May 2014 PP No 325, Session 2010–14

Accessibility of Mainstream Services for Aboriginal Victorians

This report is printed on Monza Recycled paper.

Monza Recycled is certified Carbon Neutral by The Carbon Reduction Institute (CRI) in accordance with the global Greenhouse Gas Protocol and ISO 14040 framework. The Lifecycle Analysis (LCA) for Monza Recycled is cradle to grave including Scopes 1, 2 and 3. It has FSC Mix Certification combined with 55% recycled content. ISBN 978 1 922044 83 9 Photo attributions Photographs by Tobias Titz. Thanks to the organisations for making their premises or events available for the photographs.

Except where otherwise indicated, the images in this publication show models and illustrative settings only, and do not necessarily depict actual services, facilities or recipients of services.

Accessibility of Mainstream Services for Aboriginal Victorians

Victorian Auditor-General’s Report Accessibility of Mainstream Services for Aboriginal Victorians iii The Hon. Bruce Atkinson MLC The Hon Christine Fyffe MP President Speaker Legislative Council Legislative Assembly Parliament House Parliament House Melbourne Melbourne Dear Presiding Officers Under the provisions of section 16AB of the Audit Act 1994, I transmit my report on the audit Accessibility of Mainstream Services for Aboriginal Victorians.

The audit examined the access to mainstream services for Aboriginal Victorians that are provided or funded by government departments, and it assessed whether departments can demonstrate how improved access has contributed, and is expected to contribute to improved outcomes.

I found that despite departments developing programs aimed at increasing access, outcomes have not improved significantly and in some cases the gap has worsened. A lack of broad consultation and problems with data reliability mean that departments cannot be assured they understand the needs of Aboriginal Victorians. With the exception of the Department of Health, departments do not know if the work they are undertaking is improving access, and why outcomes are not improving. As a result, departments cannot be assured they are on track to meet the targets in the Victorian Aboriginal Affairs Framework.

There is a lack of effective oversight and coordination by the Secretaries’ Leadership Group and the Office of Aboriginal Affairs Victoria. Without improvements in these areas, it is unlikely the Victorian Aboriginal Affairs Framework 2013–18 will be effectively implemented. I have made eight recommendations, six targeted at the Departments of Health, Human Services, and Education and Early Childhood Development, and two targeted at the Office of Aboriginal Affairs Victoria in the Department of Premier and Cabinet. Yours faithfully John Doyle Auditor-General 29 May 2014

Accessibility of Mainstream Services for Aboriginal Victorians
Accessibility of Mainstream Services for Aboriginal Victorians

Victorian Auditor-General’s Report Accessibility of Mainstream Services for Aboriginal Victorians v Contents Auditor-General's comments . vii Audit summary . . ix Conclusions . . ix Findings . . xi Recommendations . . xiv Submissions and comments received . . xiv 1. Background . 1 1.1 Introduction . 1 1.2 Previous VAGO audits . 8 1.3 Audit objective and scope . 9 1.4 Audit method and cost . 10 1.5 Structure of report . 10 2. Understanding the needs of Aboriginal Victorians . 11 2.1 Introduction . 12 2.2 Conclusion . 12 2.3 Understanding Aboriginal service needs . 13 3. Plans, programs and strategies .

21 3.1 Introduction . 22 3.2 Conclusion . 22 3.3 Adequacy of plans and strategies for service delivery . 23 3.4 Collaboration and coordination . 30 4. Access, outcomes, monitoring and reporting . 33 4.1 Introduction . 34 4.2 Conclusion . 34 4.3 Access to services . 34 4.4 Measuring outcomes . 38 4.5 Monitoring and reporting . 41

Accessibility of Mainstream Services for Aboriginal Victorians

Contents vi Accessibility of Mainstream Services for Aboriginal Victorians Victorian Auditor-General’s Report Appendix A. Barriers to access and required actions . 47 Appendix B. Mainstream services, strategies and programs . 49 Appendix C. Progress toward targets . 53 Appendix D. Audit Act 1994 section 16—submissions and comments . 59

Accessibility of Mainstream Services for Aboriginal Victorians

Victorian Auditor-General’s Report Accessibility of Mainstream Services for Aboriginal Victorians vii Auditor-General’s comments Victoria’s Aboriginal population is small relative to other parts of Australia. The 2011 census reports that there are around 47 000 Aboriginal people in Victoria—0.9 per cent of the total Victorian population—and 55 per cent of Aboriginal Victorians are under 25 years of age, compared to 32 per cent of the non-Aboriginal population.

Despite some improvements, Aboriginal Victorians are still facing significant disadvantage compared to the rest of the Victorian population, and they access many mainstream services at lower rates than the rest of the population. Gaps persist in many areas including early childhood development, health outcomes, income and employment. Addressing these gaps is vital to improve life outcomes for Aboriginal Victorians, and ensure they receive equitable access to services they are entitled to. This audit assessed the accessibility of mainstream services for Aboriginal Victorians, including whether departments can demonstrate how improved access has, and is expected to, improve outcomes for Aboriginal Victorians.

The audit focused on whole-of-government and departmental policies, programs and strategies, as well as outcomes, covering early childhood, health and human services. My audit found little improvement in outcomes and in some cases, the gap between Aboriginal Victorians and the rest of the population has worsened. However, access to hospital services, maternal and child health services, public housing services and kindergarten has improved.

Many of the audit findings reflect similar issues identified in past VAGO reports and various departmental reviews relating to disadvantaged sections of the population. These groups have differing needs and challenges in accessing mainstream services. In order to ensure they receive the same opportunities as the rest of the population, departments and agencies need to be well informed about the needs of disadvantaged groups, including Aboriginal people, and target their services and programs accordingly.

In common with other whole-of-government initiatives that focus on vulnerable Victorians, there is an absence of effective leadership and oversight in Aboriginal affairs which has affected mainstream service delivery over many years.

The Secretaries’ Leadership Group on Aboriginal Affairs (SLG) is responsible for overseeing implementation of the Victorian Aboriginal Affairs Framework 2013–18 (VAAF), and this has not been effective. To ensure that services are accessible—and to achieve its intended outcomes—VAAF needs to be implemented with strengthened oversight and improved collaboration between departments.

John Doyle Auditor-General Audit team Andrew Evans Sector Director Peter Rorke Team Leader Sophie Fisher Analyst Pablo Armellino Graduate Analyst Chris Sheard Engagement Quality Control Reviewer

Accessibility of Mainstream Services for Aboriginal Victorians

Auditor-General's comments viii Accessibility of Mainstream Services for Aboriginal Victorians Victorian Auditor-General’s Report I have made key recommendations for the Department of Premier and Cabinet through the SLG to provide more active leadership and direction to make sure that departments comply with the requirements of VAAF. I am pleased DPC has accepted these recommendations and the SLG has recently created a new Inter-Departmental Aboriginal Inclusion Working Group.

It is important this group, the Office of Aboriginal Affairs Victoria (OAAV) and the SLG actively oversee progress in developing and implementing plans and actions to improve Aboriginal inclusion. The report also contains a set of recommendations that apply to all government agencies that may be responsible for providing services for Aboriginal Victorians. I am confident that adopting these recommendations will assist agencies to ‘close the gap’, thus improving the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal Victorians.

I intend to revisit the issues that my office has identified in this report to ensure they are being appropriately addressed. Finally, I wish to acknowledge and thank the staff of OAAV and the departments of Education and Early Childhood Development, Health and Human Services for their assistance and cooperation during this audit. John Doyle Auditor-General 29 May 2014

Victorian Auditor-General’s Report Accessibility of Mainstream Services for Aboriginal Victorians ix Audit summary The Australian Aboriginal population faces considerable disadvantage when compared to the non-Aboriginal population.

For example, there are significant gaps in early childhood development, lower participation in maternal and child health services and kindergarten, poorer health status and shorter life expectancy, higher disability rates and comparatively lower literacy and numeracy outcomes. Despite some recent improvements, these gaps are still prevalent in Victoria. Victoria’s Aboriginal population is small relative to other parts of Australia. The 2011 census reports that there are around 47 000 Aboriginal people in Victoria—0.9 per cent of the total Victorian population—and 55 per cent of Aboriginal Victorians are under 25 years of age, compared to 32 per cent of the non-Aboriginal population.

In November 2008, the Council of Australian Governments agreed to the National Indigenous Reform Agreement (NIRA), which commits all Australian governments to achieving specific closing the gap targets. To address its commitments under NIRA, the Victorian Government has developed the Victorian Aboriginal Affairs Framework 2013–18 (VAAF), which builds on the previous Victorian Indigenous Affairs Framework 2010–13, as the primary whole-of-government framework for Aboriginal people. VAAF outlines criteria designed to provide more effective access to services and improve outcomes for Aboriginal Victorians.

This audit examined the access to mainstream services for Aboriginal Victorians provided or funded by government departments, and it assessed whether departments can demonstrate how improved access has contributed, and is expected to contribute to improved outcomes. The audit focused on whole-of-government and departmental policies, programs, strategies and outcomes, covering early childhood, health and human services and excluding child protection and youth justice. Conclusions Despite departments developing programs aimed at closing the gap between the Aboriginal population and the non-Aboriginal population, there has been little improvement in outcomes, and in some cases the gap has worsened.

However, there is improved service access as a result of programs such as the Aboriginal Quitline and Aboriginal Health Promotion and Chronic Care programs, and in some areas such as maternal and child health.

An absence of effective leadership and oversight has adversely affected the delivery of mainstream services for Aboriginal Victorians over many years. The Secretaries' Leadership Group on Aboriginal Affairs (SLG) is responsible for overseeing the implementation of VAAF. This arrangement does not appear to have been effective, and there is limited evidence that the SLG is fulfilling its intended role. Crucially, it appears unable to ensure that VAAF is applied as intended across government. Victorian Aboriginal Health Service (Fitzroy)

Audit summary x Accessibility of Mainstream Services for Aboriginal Victorians Victorian Auditor-General’s Report Similarly, the Office of Aboriginal Affairs Victoria (OAAV) does not oversee departmental activities.

OAAV advised it does not have the authority to direct the way departments undertake their work and sees its role as one of coordination and facilitation. There is a lack of accountability for delivery of actions because it is up to individual departments to develop and implement their own plans, with limited oversight. However, a new Interdepartmental Aboriginal Inclusion Working Group is being created to provide for regular departmental engagement and oversight of plans and associated processes.

OAAV was not able to quantify the total amount spent by the Victorian Government in relation to services for Aboriginal people, and some departments had difficulty providing complete financial information. Therefore, the total amount of funding is not clear, and the lack of complete information makes effective monitoring of expenditure problematic. Departments have developed a range of plans, strategies and programs aimed at improving access to services for Aboriginal people. Most of these have been in place for five to 10 years and in the case of the Department of Health (DH), some for over 20 years.

Since the introduction of VAAF in 2012, departments have not reviewed or updated their plans to reflect the framework's focus on addressing service access. All departments are required to complete their Aboriginal inclusion action plans by the end of August 2014. Originally, they were due to be developed by the end of 2013, and significant work remains for these plans to identify and address barriers to access to comply with VAAF criteria. The plans should also include clear target measures and milestones, and detail the requirements for monitoring, evaluating and reporting on access and outcomes.

There is significant scope for departments to improve their monitoring, evaluation and reporting of outcomes of Aboriginal service delivery strategies and programs. Except for DH, there is little evidence that departments undertake robust evaluations to assess the achievement of outcomes for Aboriginal Victorians. Across all departments, weaknesses in the completeness and reliability of data mean that it is difficult for them to accurately measure the achievement of outcomes. This diminishes their ability to effectively monitor, evaluate and report progress on service delivery plans. While there are challenges in obtaining data on the Aboriginal population, more should be done to improve the completeness and reliability of information, including data on population levels.

Without improvements to the completeness of data, departments cannot be assured that all Aboriginal Victorians who are eligible for particular services are able to access them. A lack of effective collaboration and coordination in planning and service delivery between the departments and service providers, as well as at service delivery level between local providers, creates difficulties for Aboriginal people, who have to navigate multiple service providers to access services. SLG is tasked with coordination and collaboration between departments, but there is limited evidence this is occurring.

Audit summary Victorian Auditor-General’s Report Accessibility of Mainstream Services for Aboriginal Victorians xi Findings Oversight and leadership A lack of effective oversight and leadership has adversely affected the delivery of mainstream services for Aboriginal Victorians. Given the deficiencies identified in this audit—such as with Aboriginal action plans and strategies, data collection and sharing, and program evaluations—there is a pressing need for SLG and OAAV to provide more active leadership, direction and oversight to ensure that departmental programs and strategies identify and address the needs of Aboriginal Victorians to facilitate increased access and improved outcomes.

Consultation and engagement There are a number of ways in which government departments consult and engage with Aboriginal organisations and people. However, there is a lack of broad consultation, and this limits community representation and is time consuming for stakeholders who are on multiple committees. Consistent with VAAF and Council of Australian Governments (COAG) principles, broad consultation includes engaging Aboriginal community members and organisations, as well as mainstream service providers, at all stages of program development, implementation and evaluation to ensure diverse representation.

Many organisations—including Aboriginal community controlled organisations—that provide feedback and advice to departments are directly funded by those departments, which may diminish their capacity to provide constructive feedback. There is scope for greater use of community consultation, which would strengthen overall consultation processes.

Complete and reliable data There are challenges for the audited departments in obtaining complete and reliable data to identify needs, develop plans, evaluate programs and report outcomes— particularly data relating to population levels. Despite these challenges, DH has had data improvement processes in place for a number of years through strategies to improve identification in public hospitals. The Department of Human Services (DHS) more recently has moved to enhance data collection procedures to improve completeness and reliability of datasets particularly relating to service accessibility for Aboriginal Victorians, while the Department of Education and Early Childhood (DEECD) is improving data collection in its maternal and child health service.

There is a clear imperative for departments to improve their data collection methods and information sharing practices. Data sharing across departments is limited. Without complete and reliable data, departments cannot be assured they are meeting the service needs of Aboriginal people.

Audit summary xii Accessibility of Mainstream Services for Aboriginal Victorians Victorian Auditor-General’s Report Plans, programs and strategies All departmental secretaries have agreed to finalise Aboriginal inclusion action plans by the end of August 2014, but significant work remains for these plans to identify and address barriers to access. Overall, the quality of the audited sample of plans and strategies for the delivery of services to Aboriginal Victorians in the audited departments was poor. They did not meet many of the better practice criteria established in government policy framework documents.

Consequently, there is considerable scope for departments to improve their plans and strategies under VAAF.

Collaboration and coordination There is a lack of effective collaboration and coordination in planning and service delivery between the departments and service providers, as well as at service delivery level between local providers, despite this being a role of SLG. The successful implementation of VAAF requires improved cross-government coordination. Feedback from Aboriginal stakeholders, community organisations, service providers, and departmental officers indicated that many problems with government services are the result of a ‘siloed’ approach to service delivery that can impede access to services and negatively impact outcomes.

This creates difficulties as users have to navigate multiple service providers to access services.

According to its terms of reference, SLG is responsible for strengthening coordination and collaboration between departments. However, there is limited evidence this is occurring and there is considerable scope for improvement in this area. Access to services Both DH and DEECD measure access to programs, and can demonstrate improvements in accessibility in some services. At DH this is the case in a range of areas, while at DEECD, gaps in participation in maternal and child health and kindergarten have narrowed. However, this data needs to be viewed with caution, because longer-term trends need to be considered rather than short-term increases or decreases in participation and attendance.

DHS can demonstrate increased access to public housing—although overcrowding in public housing has increased—and to homelessness services.

Evaluating outcomes Despite the development of programs aimed at increasing access to close the gap between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Victorians, there has been little improvement in outcomes, and in some cases the gap has worsened.

Audit summary Victorian Auditor-General’s Report Accessibility of Mainstream Services for Aboriginal Victorians xiii Without effective evaluations, departments cannot be assured they have achieved or are achieving targets under VAAF. Only DH demonstrated a rigorous program of evaluation that assessed the achievement of outcomes for Aboriginal Victorians, and this has been in place for a number of years.

While DEECD and DHS undertake some evaluations, neither could demonstrate a comprehensive evaluation regime for Aboriginal programs, and it is difficult to understand how these departments can assure themselves that plans, programs and strategies are achieving positive outcomes for Aboriginal people. Monitoring and reporting The Victorian Government Aboriginal Affairs Report is submitted annually to the Victorian Parliament. OAAV collects information from departments to publish in the report. However, this report provides only a high-level analysis of outcomes against targets in key areas and some basic data on trends.

The information is not always reliable because it depends on data provided by departments, which is of varying quality. Departments also report to COAG, on their progress towards outcomes for closing the gap between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Victorians. Although departments report on results of their various programs, there is significant scope to improve public reporting on the accessibility and outcomes of mainstream services for Aboriginal Victorians.

Funding of services Quantifying the Victorian Government’s expenditure on mainstream services for Aboriginal Victorians is difficult. DEECD was not able to provide specific details on expenditure for Aboriginal Victorians in maternal and child health, and DHS was unable to provide specific funding details in relation to access of its mainstream services by Aboriginal Victorians. Although OAAV is the central policy group for Aboriginal affairs, it was unable to provide any information on the amount of funding provided for programs related to services for Aboriginal people across Victorian Government departments.

Audit summary xiv Accessibility of Mainstream Services for Aboriginal Victorians Victorian Auditor-General’s Report Recommendations Number Recommendation Page That departments: 1. improve data collection and recording processes, including collaborating with other departments, Aboriginal community controlled organisations and other relevant organisations to estimate Aboriginal populations for each service 20 2. as a priority, finalise Aboriginal inclusion action plans and fully apply Victorian Aboriginal Affairs Framework service access criteria in service delivery plans and programs 31 3. engage a broad range of Aboriginal people in developing, implementing, monitoring and evaluating plans and programs 31 4.

identify and pursue opportunities to collaborate, cooperate and share data with government agencies responsible for mainstream service delivery and with service providers 31 5. routinely evaluate plans and programs to determine whether access is increasing and outcomes are improving, and to identify where improvements are needed 46 6. develop internal and external reporting regimes that provide comprehensive and informative data on the progress and outcomes of departmental plans and programs. 46 That the Department of Premier and Cabinet: 7. provides more active leadership and direction so that departmental programs and strategies comply with the Victorian Aboriginal Affairs Framework 2013–18, and identify and address increased access and improved outcomes 46 8.

through the Secretaries' Leadership Group on Aboriginal Affairs, monitors the implementation of departmental plans, evaluates outcomes and monitors the development of investment logic maps that identify the funding requirements over the term of the government's commitment to the Victorian Aboriginal Affairs Framework 2013–18. 46 Submissions and comments received In addition to progressive engagement during the course of the audit, in accordance with section 16(3) of the Audit Act 1994, a copy of this report was provided to the Office of Aboriginal Affairs Victoria and the departments of Education and Early Childhood Development, Health, and Human Services with a request for submissions or comments.

Agency views have been considered in reaching our audit conclusions and are represented to the extent relevant and warranted in preparing this report. Their full section 16(3) submissions and comments are included in Appendix D.

Victorian Auditor-General’s Report Accessibility of Mainstream Services for Aboriginal Victorians 1 1Background Introduction 1.1 Victoria's Aboriginal population 1.1.1 Victoria’s Aboriginal population is relatively small compared to other parts of Australia. The 2011 census reports that there are around 47 000 Aboriginal people in Victoria— 0.9 per cent of the total population—an increase of around 40 per cent between 2006 and 2011.

This growth is attributed to higher birth rates, migration to Victoria and higher rates of people identifying as Aboriginal.

The Aboriginal population is relatively young, with 55 per cent of Aboriginal Victorians under 25 years of age, compared to 32 per cent of the non-Aboriginal population. Victoria’s Aboriginal population is distributed between metropolitan Melbourne— 46 per cent—and regional locations—54 per cent. Gap between the Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal 1.1.2 population Australia-wide The Australian Aboriginal population faces considerable disadvantage when compared to the non-Aboriginal population—with gaps in early childhood health and development, higher than average perinatal mortality rates, lower birth weights, and lower participation in maternal and child health services and kindergarten.

Aboriginal people report higher levels of psychological distress and have a poorer health status, shorter life expectancy and higher hospitalisation and disability rates. In education, comparatively lower literacy and numeracy outcomes, and higher disengagement rates, contribute to lower rates of Year 12 completion and tertiary education access. The Victorian experience Despite some improvements, Aboriginal Victorians are still facing significant disadvantage compared to the rest of the Victorian population. There is a gap in health and educational outcomes and therefore life outcomes between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Victorians.

The Council of Australian Governments (COAG) and the Victorian Government have recognised the importance of addressing Aboriginal disadvantage and closing the gap in outcomes.

Background 2 Accessibility of Mainstream Services for Aboriginal Victorians Victorian Auditor-General’s Report Data from the 2011 census indicates that the median age of Aboriginal Victorians is 22 years, 15 years younger than the median age of non-Aboriginal Victorians. The data shows higher birth rates and a much shorter life expectancy for Aboriginal people Australia-wide. The Australian Bureau of Statistics is not able to calculate specific Victorian life expectancy rates at present because of the small size of the Victorian Aboriginal population. A large gap in median weekly income is also reported—$390 for Aboriginal and $562 for non-Aboriginal Victorians.

Policy framework 1.1.3 National Indigenous Reform Agreement (Closing the Gap) In December 2007, COAG created a partnership between all levels of government to address Aboriginal disadvantage and close the gap between the Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal population. In November 2008, COAG agreed to the National Indigenous Reform Agreement (NIRA), which commits all Australian governments to achieving the six Closing the Gap targets: x close the life-expectancy gap within a generation x halve the gap in mortality rates for Indigenous children under five within a decade x ensure access to early childhood education for all Indigenous four-year-olds in remote communities within five years x halve the gap in reading, writing and numeracy achievements for children within a decade x halve the gap in Indigenous Year 12 achievement by 2020 x halve the gap in employment outcomes within a decade.

NIRA sets out an integrated strategy, which defines responsibilities, promotes accountability, clarifies funding arrangements, and links to other initiatives contributing to closing the gap. The agreement also identifies strategic areas for policies and sets out policy principles, objectives and performance indicators. Victorian Government Aboriginal Inclusion Framework The Victorian Government Aboriginal Inclusion Framework was released in November 2011. It outlines a number of important actions that should shape Aboriginal affairs policy. One of the key actions is to develop departmental action plans to demonstrate how access to and inclusion in mainstream services will be improved.

The framework 'is designed to be flexible in its implementation and departments and agencies will be encouraged to develop their own plans, structures and strategies that suit the context within which they operate'. It is intended to provide a tool to assist departments to develop their action plans.

The framework outlines the main barriers Aboriginal Victorians face in accessing services and resources. The main barriers are actual and perceived discrimination by service providers, language and cultural barriers, lack of trust in services and organisations, and lack of awareness of and engagement with local Aboriginal communities.

Background Victorian Auditor-General’s Report Accessibility of Mainstream Services for Aboriginal Victorians 3 Victorian Indigenous Affairs Framework First released in 2006, the Victorian Indigenous Affairs Framework (VIAF) focused on Aboriginal childhood and early development, home environments, economic sustainability, justice, and cultural identity.

All government departments were required to prepare Aboriginal Strategic Action Plans addressing key action areas and focusing on interdepartmental collaboration.

VIAF operated between 2006 and 2012. It was revised in 2010 to produce VIAF 2010-13, which established Victorian-specific objectives and targets consistent with the nationally agreed Closing the Gap targets for 2013, 2018 and 2023. The 2013 targets were not reported against. Victorian Aboriginal Affairs Framework 2013–18 In November 2012, the government released the Victorian Aboriginal Affairs Framework 2013–18 (VAAF) which builds on the previous VIAF as the primary whole-of-government framework related to Aboriginal affairs. It identifies six strategic action areas, covering early childhood, education, economic participation, health and wellbeing, safe families and justice outcomes, and strong culture and confident communities.

Each strategic area includes sub-objectives with specific improvement targets and expected outcomes.

Many of the indicators under VIAF related to service access and participation and are similar to the VAAF indicators and targets—for example, in action areas such as improving maternal and early childhood health, and developing and improving education outcomes. VAAF requires all Victorian Government departments to have an Aboriginal inclusion action plan consistent with the Victorian Government Aboriginal Inclusion Framework.

Background 4 Accessibility of Mainstream Services for Aboriginal Victorians Victorian Auditor-General’s Report Access to services for Aboriginal people 1.1.4 Many services that Aboriginal people need are delivered by mainstream service providers, including hospitals, maternal and child health services, schools and kindergartens, and community and public housing.

The general population is entitled to access these mainstream services. In addition, Aboriginal community controlled organisations (ACCO) provide a range of services for Aboriginal Victorians, including mainstream services such as maternal and child health, and more targeted services such as the Aboriginal Health Promotion and Chronic Care program (AHPACC), funded by the Department of Health. In many cases, these services exist to facilitate improved access to mainstream services. VAAF outlines that a significant number of Aboriginal people—40 per cent nationally—rely on ACCO-delivered services in areas such as health, child and family services, housing and justice.

VAAF emphasises increasing take-up of services as the first step towards improved outcomes for Aboriginal Victorians. It states that ‘the challenge for service providers is to encourage or ensure that those targeted by a service actually use it’. In this context, VAAF outlines seven criteria designed to provide better access to services for Aboriginal Victorians and improve outcomes consistent with VAAF priorities. The seven access criteria are listed in Figure 1A. Figure 1A Key access criteria for effective service design Criteria Outcome Cultural safety Service provider understands client needs, including cultural needs Affordability Clients can afford to use required services Convenience Clients can get to the service easily Awareness Current and potential clients are informed about the availability of the service and its value Empowerment Current and potential clients know which services they are entitled to seek Availability Services that a client needs are accessible Respect Service provider treats the client with respect Note: Cultural safety refers to an environment in which people feel safe, that they are respected for who they are and what they need, and that their cultural identity is unchallenged.

Source: Victorian Auditor-General’s Office from the Victorian Aboriginal Affairs Framework 2013–18 VAAF recognises that more than any other state or territory, Aboriginal people in Victoria have been directly affected by the Stolen Generation. The Stolen Generation still has a significant impact on the way Aboriginal people feel about mainstream services and the level of trust they have in services that were once used as government instruments for removing Aboriginal children from their families. Also, evidence indicates that historically, Aboriginal Victorians have been excluded or discriminated against when trying to access mainstream services.

Background Victorian Auditor-General’s Report Accessibility of Mainstream Services for Aboriginal Victorians 5 To achieve the highest level of service effectiveness, people first need to use the service, which is not an automatic decision. People consider a range of factors in making this choice. The most important challenge for all service providers, when developing a program of services designed to achieve an outcome, is making sure the intended users actually access the services. In Victoria, mainstream services play a key role in providing health, education and welfare services to Aboriginal people, as the Aboriginal population is quite small and widely dispersed throughout the state.

According to a 2009 report by the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development (DEECD), nearly a quarter of young Aboriginal people and adults had problems accessing services. Long waits, cost and the service not being available when required were the major reported barriers to accessing services. Lack of adequate transport and distance were also commonly reported barriers. At the 2010 Young Koori Parents Forum, organised by the Victorian Indigenous Youth Advisory Council, young Aboriginal people, particularly young parents, reported limited knowledge of services available to them, which negatively impacts the accessibility of services.

Identified barriers to access 1.1.5 Following our review of documentation—including plans, strategies and evaluation reports—and discussions with audited departments, Aboriginal stakeholders and service providers, we identified the main barriers to accessing mainstream services experienced by Aboriginal people. These include a lack of culturally safe services and a lack of awareness of the services available, racism, shame and fear, complex administrative processes and affordability. Appendix A provides further details on barriers to access and required actions.

Roles and responsibilities 1.1.6 Figure 1B sets out the roles and responsibilities for the development and implementation of Aboriginal affairs policy.

Background 6 Accessibility of Mainstream Services for Aboriginal Victorians Victorian Auditor-General’s Report Figure 1B Roles and responsibilities – Aboriginal affairs policy Note: Working groups under the Overarching Indigenous Bilateral Plan Committee include the Vulnerable Children's Working Group, the Economic Development Working Group, and the Data Reform Working Group. Source: Victorian Auditor-General's Office, based on information provided by the Office of Aboriginal Affairs Victoria.

Background Victorian Auditor-General’s Report Accessibility of Mainstream Services for Aboriginal Victorians 7 Office of Aboriginal Affairs Victoria The Office of Aboriginal Affairs Victoria (OAAV) was established within the former Department of Planning and Community Development in December 2012 to combine Aboriginal Affairs Victoria with the Aboriginal Affairs Taskforce.

In July 2013 OAAV was transferred to the Department of Premier and Cabinet. Consistent with its business plan, OAAV takes a coordinated end-to-end approach to deliver the Victorian Government's agenda for Aboriginal policy reform, community strengthening and engagement, and cultural heritage management and protection. OAAV works with Victorian Aboriginal communities and other partners to lead the whole-of-government Aboriginal affairs reform agenda to improve the lives of Aboriginal Victorians. It is also responsible for the effective implementation of the Aboriginal Heritage Act 2006 and the Aboriginal Lands Act 1970.

Secretaries’ Leadership Group on Aboriginal Affairs The Secretary of the Department of Premier and Cabinet chairs the Secretaries’ Leadership Group on Aboriginal Affairs (SLG), which has a membership comprising the secretaries of all departments. SLG has a range of responsibilities, including overseeing the implementation of VAAF and driving the development and implementation of departmental Aboriginal inclusion action plans to ensure services are accessible and inclusive for Aboriginal Victorians.

Senior Officers Group The Executive Director of OAAV chairs a Senior Officers' Group on Aboriginal Affairs with representatives from across Victorian Government departments.

Its role is to provide a forum for interdepartmental collaboration and coordination. Government departments Departments develop policies specific to their area and coordinate service provision for Aboriginal Victorians. Each department should have an Aboriginal inclusion action plan that guides it in developing policies and services that are culturally appropriate for Aboriginal people. In terms of departmental responsibilities: x The Department of Health has three main focus areas, health, mental health and aged care. The department works primarily in a funding and policy capacity, funding a variety of mainstream and targeted services.

x DEECD funds kindergarten programs, the Victorian Maternal and Child Health Service, parenting services, and school and higher education. x The Department of Human Services either directly delivers or funds community organisations to deliver child protection, out-of-home care and family services, youth justice services, disability services, housing and homelessness services, and concessions.

Background 8 Accessibility of Mainstream Services for Aboriginal Victorians Victorian Auditor-General’s Report Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations ACCOs are not-for-profit organisations that provide services to Aboriginal people and are administered by the community they serve. They often run programs funded by government departments involving partnerships with mainstream service providers. Generally, their focus is on facilitating access to, and improving cultural safety of, services for Aboriginal people. Their establishment and management is community driven and largely regulated through state and Commonwealth legislation.

Aboriginal community controlled health organisations are well established types of ACCOs. Previous VAGO audits 1.2 Coordinating Services and Initiatives for Aboriginal People, June 2008 The audit examined how well services and initiatives for Aboriginal people are planned and coordinated across the Victorian public sector and specifically focused on the governance and accountability arrangements in place to facilitate and monitor the progress of VIAF.

The audit examined interdepartmental and intradepartmental arrangements, and found that lack of coordinated program design was a key area for attention. Overall, the findings indicated that the respective roles and responsibilities of the agencies involved were unclear and cross-departmental collaboration was not evident. At a department level, the audit found that the departments’ action plans were incomplete, or not clear in terms of interdepartmental collaboration. The audit also identified a lack of joint datasets for departments to monitor goal achievement, and the need for a performance monitoring framework to monitor progress.

Indigenous Education Strategies for Government Schools, June 2011 The audit examined the implementation and delivery of the Wannik education strategy. It found that the strategy had a solid planning base but the rigour was not sustained throughout the rollout of the program, resulting in poor implementation. It also found that there were no comprehensive plans covering implementation milestones and time lines, stakeholder engagement and communications, and risk management. There was insufficient information available and no reporting mechanisms that provided a picture of the overall status of the Wannik strategy.

The audit reported that DEECD was unable to demonstrate that it was effectively managing the range of risks to the strategy’s success. Rather than project-managing the strategy, DEECD used a business-as-usual model with a limited accountability system.

Background Victorian Auditor-General’s Report Accessibility of Mainstream Services for Aboriginal Victorians 9 Access to Education for Rural Students, April 2014 This audit assessed the effectiveness of DEECD's activities to ensure that Victorians in rural areas have access to a high-quality education and that outcomes for these students are maximised.

The audit concluded that DEECD has not provided access to high-quality education for all students, and while DEECD undertakes many activities that assist rural educators and students, these have not resulted in significantly improved performance. The report, however, did acknowledge that DEECD's Smarter Schools National Partnerships program for people in low socio-economic areas had improved oral language skills among Indigenous students and the capacity of teachers to work with disadvantaged students.

Audit objective and scope 1.3 The audit objective was to assess the accessibility of mainstream services for Aboriginal Victorians. The following criteria address the audit objective: x departments have a sound understanding of the service needs of Aboriginal people x departments develop and implement effective plans, programs and strategies to facilitate access to services for Aboriginal Victorians and address identified needs x departments can demonstrate how improved service access has contributed, and is expected to contribute, to improved outcomes for Aboriginal Victorians x there are effective monitoring, reporting and evaluation frameworks in place, underpinned by reliable data on service access, to demonstrate the achievement of intended outcomes.

This audit examined access to mainstream services for Aboriginal Victorians, including targeted programs and strategies designed to support access to these services, which are mainly services provided or funded by departments. The audit focused on whole-of-government and departmental policies, programs and strategies, as well as outcomes, covering early childhood, health and human services. The following departments were part of the audit: x Department of Premier and Cabinet—Office of Aboriginal Affairs Victoria x DEECD x Department of Health x Department of Human Services. The audit examined specific services within early childhood, health, and human services—excluding child protection and youth justice.

Appendix B sets out the mainstream services and key related strategies and programs provided by departments in this audit.

Background 10 Accessibility of Mainstream Services for Aboriginal Victorians Victorian Auditor-General’s Report Audit method and cost 1.4 The audit was conducted in accordance with section 15 of the Audit Act 1994 and Australian Auditing and Assurance Standards. Audit evidence was gathered through: x meetings with each of the four audited departments, including regional staff x meetings with service providers and other stakeholders, including in regional areas x review of government frameworks and policy for Aboriginal affairs x review of departmental plans, programs and strategies, including examination of evaluations, reviews and progress reports.

Pursuant to section 20(3) of the Audit Act 1994, unless otherwise indicated, any persons named in this report are not the subject of adverse comment or opinion. The cost of this audit was $335 000. Structure of the report 1.5 The report is structured as follows: x Part 2 discusses whether departments have a sound understanding of the needs of Aboriginal Victorians x Part 3 discusses departmental plans, programs and strategies x Part 4 discusses access, outcomes and governance.

Victorian Auditor-General’s Report Accessibility of Mainstream Services for Aboriginal Victorians 11 2Understanding the needs of Aboriginal Victorians At a glance Background Victorian Government departments need a sound understanding of the service needs of Aboriginal Victorians to be able to design and deliver services which are accessible.

Conclusion Audited agencies have a reasonable understanding of the service needs of Aboriginal Victorians. However, this is constrained by a lack of broad consultation and complete and reliable data.

Findings x Audited departments have established both structured and informal processes for consulting and engaging with stakeholders and representatives of Aboriginal organisations. However, existing processes are limited in breadth. x There are challenges for the audited departments in obtaining complete and reliable data to identify needs, to develop plans, and to evaluate programs and report outcomes, particularly data relating to population levels. x While there is evidence of data sharing across departments, this is limited and— without improving data collection methods and information-sharing practices— departments cannot be assured they are meeting the needs of Aboriginal people.

Recommendation That departments improve data collection and recording processes, including collaborating with other departments, Aboriginal community controlled organisations and other relevant organisations to estimate Aboriginal populations for each service.

Understanding the needs of Aboriginal Victorians 12 Accessibility of Mainstream Services for Aboriginal Victorians Victorian Auditor-General’s Report 2.1 Introduction Departments need a sound understanding of the service needs of Aboriginal Victorians if they are to design and deliver services that are accessible and achieve improved outcomes. This Part assesses whether departments have a sound understanding of the needs of Aboriginal Victorians that can inform the development of robust plans for service delivery.

2.2 Conclusion Audited departments have a reasonable understanding of the service needs of Aboriginal Victorians.

However, this is constrained by a lack of broad consultation and of complete and reliable data. Although there are challenges for the departments in obtaining data to identify needs—including data on population levels—data collection could be improved. The Department of Health (DH) has an extensive program of evaluation that assists it to understand Aboriginal service needs, but neither the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development (DEECD) nor the Department of Human Services (DHS) were able to demonstrate similarly comprehensive evaluation programs to assist them in understanding the needs of Aboriginal Victorians.

DHS and DEECD provided limited evidence of extensive consultation. DH provided evidence of extensive consultation at a state and local level with both mainstream and Aboriginal organisations. However, existing processes are limited in breadth. With respect to consultation: x Some regional stakeholders indicated that a lack of broad consultation limits community representation and is time-consuming for stakeholders on multiple committees.

x Many organisations, including Aboriginal community controlled organisations (ACCO) that provide feedback and advice to departments are directly funded by those departments, which may diminish their capacity to provide open and constructive feedback. Greater use of community consultation, including with service users, would strengthen the consultation process and provide departments with views unencumbered by funding relationships.

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